Friday, May 8, 2009

Going backward

Watching The Graduate (dir. Mike Nichols, 1967) with some of my students recently, I had a thought about the film's opening credits, which play as Benjamin Braddock stands on an automated walkway at LAX, moving without moving. A simple choice: should Ben be facing right, or left?

Yes, left. Forward movement typically goes from left to right, as when reading text in English. Ben's going backward, going home.

Between watching The Graduate and writing this post, I happened to read Bill Madison's recent interview with Betty Aberlin of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Talking about Fred Rogers' care with every detail of production, Lady Aberlin notes that

Things happened left to right on the screen, because a child learns to read with his eyes being trained left to right.
This post has moved from right to left, from a movie about a college graduate to a television show for pre-schoolers. Now it's time for my snack.

comments: 2

Malachy Walsh said...

Just to overthink it some more.

I'd also say the choice to have Ben facing left works from a graphic design standpoint. He becomes a visual punctuation mark for our eye.

We read The Graduate. Then we see the graduate.

His facing left means his back also provides a natural end to the frame.... our eye needs to go no further.

And we don't have to wonder about what he might be looking at off screen. We can see it: a blank space that's as metaphorically perfect as it is convenient for titles.

Michael Leddy said...

Nice reading, Malachy. So appropriate that the figure in this image has nothing to look forward to, literally.